Last week in Phoenix I sat behind the mirror glass, watching in the dark as a few rounds of subjects spoke their truths. It's a special thing, a focus group. We provide safety, structure and a microphone. We ask (do not interrogate). We consider (do not judge).
The client wishes identify gaps between expectation and experience... Regular stuff, our jam. But something happened, from group 1. A single voice rocked a sea of nodding heads, followed by their furies. Then the second and third groups echoed choruses of "me, too." They weren't talking about what we're talking about.
Geoffrey and Megan were in the room, receiving each charge and finding somewhere to put it on the grid. Thanks, we'll put this in High Priority, Entering. One post-it per problem. Please choose a Sharpie in a contrasting color. Legibility helps us help you. When the walls ran out, they littered the two-way mirror.
We in Observation peeked through the field of neon squares to put a face to a rage. I admit that objectivity was easier than empathy, which is to say I didn't care. I'd been awake for 20 hours by the last group. Time zone problems, mostly, but the nightmares haven't helped.
My "me, too" - the one we're talking about - was 28 days ago today. A moon cycle, no less. It wasn't the first or the last, but it shook me. I've heard myself say "it was a bad one," ranking them like tropical storms. I've begun sentences with "this time" and felt insane. But now I'm watching you raise your hands. How can it be all of us? And I hate that it helps to know it is.
For 4 weeks I've been in the dark, sometimes watching from behind the glass, sometimes buried elsewhere. Some of you here have been fireflies, circling me, blinking tiny lights into my eyes. Thank you. It's a miracle we have any light left. But we do. We have so much.
I co-facilitated last night in Austin. I didn't feel ready. To speak, or to lead, or to receive anyone else's anger. But Megan was solid, so I took the b role as Secondary Probe, and you can bet your ass plenty a probe joke was made. Nobody here knows I'm raw, which means I don't have to be. Funny how that works. We need to stop requiring one another to perform our grief. Yes, I hurt, and a probe joke is still funny.
The first good day has now happened. I smiled genuinely, and enjoyed the company of a stranger for a few minutes. Two things that felt out of reach. After the session, Megan made me laugh so hard I doubled over and gripped my knees, gasping as I flashed back to heaving sobs. They are siblings, I thought. Perhaps I get it out this way, too.
This morning, waking too early in a new hotel, dawn lit the window just enough to fool me, mimicking the contrast from Observation. Whether memory or dream, I was behind the trick mirror again, watching the world from in the dark. The last of the moon, that exact moon, dotted the sky like a single pink post-it on the glass, and I allowed myself to see it fade.
Already the light is pouring in, nevermind the clouds and curtains and the obstruction of unfortunate architecture. I'm tempted to thank god, but we're not speaking right now, so I'll thank you. For your nodding heads and your furies. And for allowing room for mine. I don't know who's moderating this shit, but there aren't enough post-its in the world to sort it out.